Hochedlinger Lab

Konrad Hochedlinger, Ph.D.

Konrad Hochedlinger, Ph.D.

Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology
Principal Faculty, Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Professor of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital

We study the molecular mechanisms underlying pluripotency and nuclear reprogramming. Pluripotency denotes the ability of cells, such as embryonic stem...

Read more about Konrad Hochedlinger, Ph.D.
Harvard University
Massachusetts General Hospital
Simches Building
Boston, MA 02114
p: 617.643.3793
Choi, J., et al., 2015. A comparison of genetically matched cell lines reveals the equivalence of human iPSCs and ESCs. Nat Biotechnol , 33 (11) , pp. 1173-81.Abstract
The equivalence of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) remains controversial. Here we use genetically matched hESC and hiPSC lines to assess the contribution of cellular origin (hESC vs. hiPSC), the Sendai virus (SeV) reprogramming method and genetic background to transcriptional and DNA methylation patterns while controlling for cell line clonality and sex. We find that transcriptional and epigenetic variation originating from genetic background dominates over variation due to cellular origin or SeV infection. Moreover, the 49 differentially expressed genes we detect between genetically matched hESCs and hiPSCs neither predict functional outcome nor distinguish an independently derived, larger set of unmatched hESC and hiPSC lines. We conclude that hESCs and hiPSCs are molecularly and functionally equivalent and cannot be distinguished by a consistent gene expression signature. Our data further imply that genetic background variation is a major confounding factor for transcriptional and epigenetic comparisons of pluripotent cell lines, explaining some of the previously observed differences between genetically unmatched hESCs and hiPSCs.
Stadtfeld, M., et al., 2012. Ascorbic acid prevents loss of Dlk1-Dio3 imprinting and facilitates generation of all-iPS cell mice from terminally differentiated B cells. Nat Genet , 44 (4) , pp. 398-405, S1-2.Abstract
The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) often results in aberrant epigenetic silencing of the imprinted Dlk1-Dio3 gene cluster, compromising the ability to generate entirely iPSC-derived adult mice ('all-iPSC mice'). Here, we show that reprogramming in the presence of ascorbic acid attenuates hypermethylation of Dlk1-Dio3 by enabling a chromatin configuration that interferes with binding of the de novo DNA methyltransferase Dnmt3a. This approach allowed us to generate all-iPSC mice from mature B cells, which have until now failed to support the development of exclusively iPSC-derived postnatal animals. Our data show that transcription factor-mediated reprogramming can endow a defined, terminally differentiated cell type with a developmental potential equivalent to that of embryonic stem cells. More generally, these findings indicate that culture conditions during cellular reprogramming can strongly influence the epigenetic and biological properties of the resultant iPSCs.
Borkent, M., et al., 2016. A Serial shRNA Screen for Roadblocks to Reprogramming Identifies the Protein Modifier SUMO2. Stem Cell Reports.Abstract
The generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from differentiated cells following forced expression of OCT4, KLF4, SOX2, and C-MYC (OKSM) is slow and inefficient, suggesting that transcription factors have to overcome somatic barriers that resist cell fate change. Here, we performed an unbiased serial shRNA enrichment screen to identify potent repressors of somatic cell reprogramming into iPSCs. This effort uncovered the protein modifier SUMO2 as one of the strongest roadblocks to iPSC formation. Depletion of SUMO2 both enhances and accelerates reprogramming, yielding transgene-independent, chimera-competent iPSCs after as little as 38 hr of OKSM expression. We further show that the SUMO2 pathway acts independently of exogenous C-MYC expression and in parallel with small-molecule enhancers of reprogramming. Importantly, suppression of SUMO2 also promotes the generation of human iPSCs. Together, our results reveal sumoylation as a crucial post-transcriptional mechanism that resists the acquisition of pluripotency from fibroblasts using defined factors.
Apostolou, E., et al., 2013. Genome-wide chromatin interactions of the Nanog locus in pluripotency, differentiation, and reprogramming. Cell Stem Cell , 12 (6) , pp. 699-712.Abstract
The chromatin state of pluripotency genes has been studied extensively in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and differentiated cells, but their potential interactions with other parts of the genome remain largely unexplored. Here, we identified a genome-wide, pluripotency-specific interaction network around the Nanog promoter by adapting circular chromosome conformation capture sequencing. This network was rearranged during differentiation and restored in induced pluripotent stem cells. A large fraction of Nanog-interacting loci were bound by Mediator or cohesin in pluripotent cells. Depletion of these proteins from ESCs resulted in a disruption of contacts and the acquisition of a differentiation-specific interaction pattern prior to obvious transcriptional and phenotypic changes. Similarly, the establishment of Nanog interactions during reprogramming often preceded transcriptional upregulation of associated genes, suggesting a causative link. Our results document a complex, pluripotency-specific chromatin "interactome" for Nanog and suggest a functional role for long-range genomic interactions in the maintenance and induction of pluripotency.
Bar-Nur, O., et al., 2015. Lineage conversion induced by pluripotency factors involves transient passage through an iPSC stage. Nat Biotechnol , 33 (7) , pp. 761-8.Abstract
Brief expression of pluripotency-associated factors such as Oct4, Klf4, Sox2 and c-Myc (OKSM), in combination with differentiation-inducing signals, has been reported to trigger transdifferentiation of fibroblasts into other cell types. Here we show that OKSM expression in mouse fibroblasts gives rise to both induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and induced neural stem cells (iNSCs) under conditions previously shown to induce only iNSCs. Fibroblast-derived iNSC colonies silenced retroviral transgenes and reactivated silenced X chromosomes, both hallmarks of pluripotent stem cells. Moreover, lineage tracing with an Oct4-CreER labeling system demonstrated that virtually all iNSC colonies originated from cells transiently expressing Oct4, whereas ablation of Oct4(+) cells prevented iNSC formation. Lastly, an alternative transdifferentiation cocktail that lacks Oct4 and was reportedly unable to support induced pluripotency yielded iPSCs and iNSCs carrying the Oct4-CreER-derived lineage label. Together, these data suggest that iNSC generation from fibroblasts using OKSM and other pluripotency-related reprogramming factors requires passage through a transient iPSC state.